In a case as viral and high-profile as The Depp v Heard trial, the verdict is not just delved by the jury. The trial takes place in two courts simultaneously. And even though justice is legally meted out at one, it is the other court that really declares the winner in the end. The second court is the court of public opinion and it is pertinent to the case regarding who wins the most sympathy from the public. The six-week trial had started with an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post in 2018. The piece in which Amber Heard stated that she was a victim of domestic abuse quickly gained traction. It was then followed by a defamation lawsuit filed by Johnny Depp, her ex-husband, for $50 million.
The Washington Post Op-ed
The opinion piece was published by the reputed news outlet in December 2018. In the article, Heard stated, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” The actor is also an ambassador of women’s rights at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Following the publication of this article, Depp started facing global backlash and criticism. He was dropped from two major franchises as a result — Fantastic Beasts and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Soon after, another article was published by the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, The Sun, in which he was called a “wife-beater”. Depp promptly sued the paper.
The first libel action trial was fought in a London court where the jury found enough evidence to substantiate The Sun’s claim. With this reputation hitting rock bottom, he filed a defamation lawsuit against Heard. The next trial, which has only recently ended, was held in the Fairfax County Court in Virginia.
Depp sued the defendant for $50 million. Amber Heard countersued for $100 million.
The Trial So Far — Has Johnny Depp Already Won?
Even though the Fairfax trial has only ended, the verdict has already been laid out. The jury is yet to declare the legal outcome of the case. However, as they ponder in the background, the world has arrived at its own conclusion.
The court of public opinion clearly states Johnny Depp as the victim in this entire scenario. Everyone knows it. And more importantly, Depp’s lawyers know it. No matter what the legal outcome, the public has declared a winner and no amount of gavels echoing will turn the mass’ opinion around. That was perhaps the goal from the very beginning.
With one’s reputation on the line, one case wasn’t going to make a smudge of difference. An allegation like Heard’s destroys careers in seconds. The 58-year-old actor’s reputation which he built over the years, sludging through alcohol and substance abuse, had crumbled to dust. What he now needed was not a clean verdict by the legal system of America but the love and support of its people.
In a statement to the New York Post, civil attorney Katherine Lizardo said, “When [Johnny Depp] stepped off the stand, I think he already won based on his definition of winning. Because he already obtained the favor of the court of public opinion … once he told his story.”
The jury on the Depp vs. Heard trial has begun deliberations as the six-week trial now comes to a close.